It’s not often Dale McDowell gets out of his comfort zone in a race car.
However, while battling for the win Saturday at Dixie Speedway, he forced himself to take a chance and make it work.
McDowell saw a hole just wide enough to stick his race car in, and made the move payoff as he powered around the outside of Tyler Millwood just past halfway of Saturday’s Spring Nationals event.
The move to the high line isn’t one McDowell makes on a regular basis.
“I’m normally a low guy,” McDowell said with a smile. “I usually let the young guys handle that outside lane, but us old guys got to get up there every now and then to make something work. In today’s world, you have to go where they aren’t. Tonight it worked out.”
Millwood started on the front row after setting the overall quick time in qualifying and seemed poised to ride off in to the Georgia night. He got the jump on the start and was cruising with the race lead before McDowell started searching different lanes.
When McDowell made his move for the top spot with 14 laps to go, Millwood had a momentary miscommunication with his crew that allowed the lead to slip away.
“I saw my crew guy point to the top one time, but I thought he was telling me to go to the top,” said Millwood. “Next thing I know, Dale comes rolling by on the outside, and there was nothing I could do. Dale has been doing this since before I was born. To race with him here is kind of exciting for me.”
Millwood’s mistake allowed the veteran McDowell to ease away for the win.
“He moved down a little bit, and when he did I got the signal from Shane (McDowell, his crew chief) that I had enough room to try something. I rolled that outside, was able to maintain and make it work for us.”
Austin Horton, Donad McIntosh and Michael Page – who started 17th after winning the LCQ – rounded out the top five.
McDowell has visited victory lane at Dixie numerous times in years past, including a trio of Dixie Shoutout wins. He said all wins are special, but Saturday’s trip to the winner’s circle.
Despite hundreds – possibly thousands – of laps around the 3/8-mile clay oval, McDowell said no two races play out the same at Dixie.
“These cars, engines and set-ups are continually changing,” said McDowell. “You go to tracks that have certain characteristics, and they are completely different due to weather or something else. You have to find what works for you that day, and get what you can.”
The Southern Nationals Spring Nationals Tour heads to Rome Speedway Sunday afternoon for a $6,000-to-win event. Fans can follow all the action on Speed51’s “Race Day Now” coverage.
-By Ryan McCollough, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent – Twitter: @RyanLMcCollough
-Photo credit: Speed51.com